Saturday, March 23, 2013

Classic Album Review: David Bowie - ChangesBowie (1990)

David Bowie’s recent comeback album was a timely reminder of the relevance of an artist who has had a profound influence on pop music throughout my lifetime. A man who transcends the “three G’s” of music consumption: generation, genre, and gender. I’ve got a fair few Bowie albums in my collection, the highpoint of which is surely the 1972 landmark, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

However, I only have one compilation album in that set, the 1990 release ChangesBowie.

Not to be confused with the 1976 “best of” album, ChangesOneBowie, or its inferior ill-fated 1981 companion release, ChangesTwoBowie, this one is something of a hybrid of both. Indeed, it compiles the entire contents of ChangesOne, adds the essential ‘Heroes’, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, and ‘Fashion’, plus four singles from Bowie’s mid-Eighties Serious Moonlight period including ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘China Girl’.

Subsequent to 1990, of course, we’ve seen multiple David Bowie “best of” packages flood the market, but ChangesBowie probably represents one of the more concise guides to his more mainstream work, an ideal starting point for beginners, and sufficient for the casual fan looking for an overview.

not this ..
.. or this

But it’s not quite enough for me, and far from definitive. Comprising of just 18 tracks on a single CD, how could it be? That may seem more than enough for the unfussy observer, but without even starting to scratch the surface, I can think of at least another 18 tracks, right here and now, that could also have made the cut – all pre-1990. The plain truth is, this album barely tells half the story.

With Bowie having revealed so many faces, and worn so many masks over the years, somehow always managing to position himself on the periphery of the latest trend, a single CD is never going to do Bowie’s career justice, and I’m afraid that is all ChangesBowie ultimately amounts to.
Highlights include the landmark ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Jean Genie’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Golden Years’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, and ‘Fashion’ … but I’d have preferred the original version of ‘Fame’ over the ‘Fame ‘90’ remix, and am even less convinced by the disappointing ‘Modern Love’, and the simply awful ‘Blue Jean’.

Meanwhile, the absence of ‘Starman’, ‘Sorrow’, and ‘Sound And Vision’ is unforgivable.

Here’s an (imaginary) Alternative ChangesBowie compilation (hey indulge me!), to include another 18 tracks NOT FOUND on here, all stuff that was out prior to this album’s 1990 release date – picking up the best of the rest, whilst carefully avoiding some of his earliest incarnations (‘Laughing Gnome’ anyone?) and his worst commercial abominations (such as ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Tonight’):

An AlternativeChanges then: ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, ‘All The Young Dudes’, ‘Five Years’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘RocknRoll Suicide’, ‘Starman’, ‘Life On Mars’, ‘Station To Station’ (live), ‘Sorrow’, ‘Fame’ (the original please), ‘Sound And Vision’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, ‘1984’, ‘DJ’, ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, ‘Under Pressure’ (with Queen), ‘Cat People’, and ‘This Is Not America’ (with Pat Metheny);

Read it and weep.
Here’s David Bowie, class of 1977, performing ‘Heroes’ on Marc Bolan’s television show … Bolan of course being a glam-era icon in his own right:


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